Fighting in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Ryan Burnett successfully defended his IBF world bantamweight title and added Zhanat Zhakiyanov’s WBA “Super” world bantamweight title to his dossier with a unanimous 12-round decision. The scores (119-110, 119-109, and 116-112) seemed a bit wide to most ringside commentators, but there was no quibble that the right man won. Although there were no knockdowns, it was a well-matched entertaining affair. The fighters went toe-to-toe in the waning seconds of the contest, much to the great satisfaction of the crowd. The Matchroom Promotions bout between the former stablemates aired on Sky TV in the U.K. and will air on tape delay in the U.S. on HBO.
Double-Z from the land of Triple-G (that would be Zhakiyanov who hails from Kazakhstan) and Burnett were making the first defenses of their respective titles. The common thread between them is former two-division world champion Ricky Hatton who was Burnett’s first pro trainer and now manages and trains Zhakiyanov.
The undefeated Burnett (now 18-0) won his belt with an unexpectedly one-sided 12-round decision over veteran Lee Haskins here in Belfast on June 10. The globetrotting 33-year-old Zhakiyanov (27-2) went on the road to win his strap, defeating Ohio native Rau’shee Warren by split decision at Toledo, Ohio, back in February. In that contest, Zhakiyanov dusted himself off to cop a well-earned decision after being knocked down twice in the opening round.
Zhakiyanov, who likes to keep the fight in his opponent’s chest, pressed the action but Burnett was slicker and had faster hands and a bit more fuel in his tank as the fight wended into the late rounds. The local lad was a consensus 7/2 favorite and rewarded his backers while ending Double-Z’s winning streak at 22.
HBO’s Peter Nelson was in attendance, sparking talk that he as interested in showcasing Burnett (who was reportedly 94-4 as an amateur) for a United States audience where promoter Eddie Hearn is seeking to establish a beachhead.
In the chief undercard bout, Belfast lightweight Paul Hyland Jr. improved to 17-0 with a 12-round split decision over Dublin’s Stephen Ormand. The scores were 117-110 and 114-113 for Hyland and 115-112 for Ormond. The folks on press row were reportedly in accord that Ormand got a raw deal.
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